Pink Slime Will Be a Choice for Schools

School NutritionHamburger in a school lunchThe USDA is expected to announce today that public schools will be able to choose whether the ground beef they buy contains pink slime.

Last week, Jessi Stafford reported on the prevalence of pink slime in school lunches.ย  Pink slime is the trimmings of beef that used to be made into dog food. After gassing it with ammonia, though, it becomes fit for humans โ€“ supposedly.

The ammonia is supposed to kill off deadly e.coli bacteria, but the application appears to be uneven. Some batches are found with high counts of e.coli, indicating an inadequate amount of ammonia. Some are sterile.

Pink slime is mixed in with ground beef as filler in order to make the ground beef cheaper by about three cents per pound. With more than 31 million children served lunch in school cafeterias each day, that’s a lot of cash being saved.

How Much Money is Saved by Feeding Pink Slime to Children?

Well, let’s see. School lunch guidelines require one ounce of meat or meat alternates per day for grades K-8 and two ounces for grades 9-12. So, an average school lunch has about 1.3 ounces of meat or meat alternate.

A quick perusal of online school lunch menus shows that about 35% of lunches contain beef, or 63 lunches per year. If all 31 million kids eat that lunch containing beef every time it’s offered, that’s 1.95 billion lunches with pink slime in them.

That’s nearly 163 million pounds of beef. At $0.03 per pound, that’s a savings of $4,882,500. Not bad. Surely, saving nearly $5 million is a good thing. Unless you look at it per kid.

It comes out to ยผ of a penny per lunch โ€“ about sixteen cents per kid annually.

Is the risk of e.coli or ammonia affecting a child’s health worth saving sixteen cents a year?

What Can I Do About Pink Slime in School Lunches?

Since the USDA is giving school districts the ability to opt out of buying pink slime, we can do something about it.

If you have kids in school, call or email the person in your school district who is in charge of purchasing food. It might take some digging to find out who that is.

Call or email the superintendent of your school district and let them know you’d rather not have pink slime in your child’s lunch.

Other ways to keep pink slime out of local schools might be to attend a meeting of the local school board and voice your opinion. Some school boards allow citizens to speak at the end of the meeting. Others prefer to schedule a citizen’s speech. You might need to contact the school board ahead of time to determine their procedures.

A letter to the local newspaper would be a way to raise awareness. Not every small newspaper carries food news and your contribution could be the only piece on pink slime.

If you’re wondering how to keep it out of your home, check out this ABC News piece listing which grocery stores sell pink slime and which don’t.

Lunch photo via Shutterstock

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